“If Britain and the EU wrap up their divorce on schedule in early 2019, the country at the helm of the European Council’s rotating presidency will be Romania – whose expatriates living in the U.K. were the target of some of the same anti-immigrant sentiment that also fueled the Brexit vote,” politico.eu comments.
This irony is not lost on Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, who sees it as his country’s chance to prove itself to the rest of Europe.
“Romania is often treated like a second-hand country, with unprepared people. We are not like that. We are a serious country, with well-prepared people,” he told POLITICO in an interview in Brussels. “This will be an occasion to show that we can deal with complicated problems.”
Iohannis, who comes from Romania’s German-speaking minority in the region of Transylvania, will be under pressure to ensure Bucharest performs its Council presidency impartially while trying to defend the rights of some 400,000 Romanians who currently live in the U.K.
Iohannis made it clear that he, like many other European leaders, considers the free movement of EU citizens a “red line” without which the post-Brexit U.K. cannot expect free access to the Continent’s markets. “Not respecting or not accepting the freedom of movement, in my opinion, cancels the access to the internal market.”
But don’t expect Romania to be aggressive during its EU presidency, said Otilia Dhand at consultancy Teneo Intelligence. “They are unlikely to rock the boat,” she said. “They will not throw a tantrum over Brexit. They will want to be seen as effective administrators over the deal that is being negotiated,” Otilia Dhand said, quoted by politico.eu.